The Centre Against Sexual Assault has defended itself over allegations a sex attack during a childhood abuse survivors retreat was not reported.
The CASA Forum said it was vital to always protect clients’ privacy, and they could only report assaults if the victim gave them written permission. Mandatory reporting of sexual abuse does not apply to adults in Victoria.
Media reports yesterday said a former CASA Ballarat client was allegedly raped by another attendee during the “healing” retreat, organised by CASA South Eastern in 2012.
The reports said the victim later told his CASA Ballarat counsellor about the incident but it was never taken any further. Twelve months later, another victim came forward from Bendigo and police became involved, with the alleged perpetrator committing suicide.
The Health Services Commission is believed to be investigating CASA Ballarat’s handling of the incident.
However, CASA’s South Eastern Centre manager Carolyn Worth said victims’ privacy was a right they would always fight to protect.
“I am speaking on behalf of the CASA Forum which is the peak body for all the sexual assault centres in Victoria,” Ms Worth said.
“I do not know all the details in this case as the man concerned is a client of the Ballarat Centre Against Sexual Assault and I should not know about his situation as he has a right to privacy.
“(However the CASAs) feel strongly that adult clients should be able to discuss their history of sexual assault without having their privacy breached.
“If a client gives permission in writing for us to contact the authorities or other agencies on their behalf we will do so. The only exception to this rule is if we believe the client to be in immediate danger of self harm or hurting someone else.
“We think that this is a principle worth defending as, for almost all of our clients, it is the reason they access counselling services. They believe that their disclosures will be listened to and their privacy respected. If this was not the case, in my experience of 24 years, sexual assault victims and survivors would not access counselling.”
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